Idea Factory’s Compile Heart division has done it again. Just like the Hyperdimension Neptunia series, their latest title, Mugen Souls, was made to appeal to a very specific crowd of Japanese animation fans who go crazy for moe (ultra-cute, for lack of a better word) girls and fantasy worlds. There certainly isn’t anything inherently wrong with this, but Mugen Souls just isn’t any fun to play.
Bath scenes aplenty
The protagonist of Mugen Souls is a feisty gal named Chou-Chou who, in addition to self-proclaiming herself as the undisputed goddess of everything, decides that she needs to exercise her greatness by conquering the seven worlds of the universe. To this end, she utilizes her special moe prowess to appeal to any and every fetish her enemies might have in order to, well, seduce them and make them her peons. She’s joined by her scantily-clad bathing partner Altis and loyal peon Ryuto, who helm the bevy of cookie-cutter characters that populate the game.
While Mugen Souls’ premise may sound crazy enough to work, unfortunately the game quickly falls into tired conventions and predictable laughs. I know there’s a certain crowd out there who eat up constant, unrelenting fanservice for breakfast, but unfortunately I am not one of them. The game’s opening musical number and near-immediate bathing scene (where Chou-Chou and Altis use living bunny peons to scrub their naked bodies) turned me off from the get-go. There are some brilliant moments of snappy localization and self-awareness later that put a smile on my otherwise disgusted face, but these moments are few and far between and soon get lost in a sea of clichés.
Squint to see fun
Perhaps all this would be tolerable if the game itself were any fun, but it is decidedly lacking in the gameplay area, as well. Each of the game’s seven worlds are conquered using similar methods: travel through three linear maps, find the hero and demon lord through a number of scripted events, and move on to the next area by seducing the actual content you’re on (so that it will move closer to the next continent, of course). The area maps themselves are colorful yet forgettable, with enemies wandering around the field waiting to collide with you and commence battle and an occasional chest to “discover,” but there is little sense of exploration here.
Battles themselves are typical Idea Factory fare –– namely, long, overly-complicated messes. Fights are turn-based and take place on a circular arena with players controlling up to four characters, including those entirely created and customized from scratch. Characters can move around the arena to attack enemies and even send them careening into one another in a system unique to the game known as “blast off.” Positioning plays an important part in battle, as random crystals with a variety of effects can help or hinder those nearby in addition to the blast off system that increases damage dealt with every collision. Otherwise, supporting character management is fairly standard, with MP-based skills rounding out their battle abilities, but Chou-Chou’s unique “moe kill” ability is what really takes center stage in battle.
The moe kill system has Chou-Chou utilizing eight different character archetypes to appeal to the sensibilities of her foes, flirting with them until they literally die of cuteness. These sequences vaguely resemble the demon negotiating found in the Shin Megami Tensei series, with Chou-Chou appealing to the interests of her enemies in order to raise their moe meter. Determining the right combination of three flirting methods to raise the enemie’s moe meter, however, is a frustrating and tedious exercise, and ends up drawing out the battles far more than necessary.
Merit for someone somewhere
It’s possible that someone invested in the style of “humor” and atmosphere Mugen Souls provides would want to draw out these encounters and get as many moe kill opportunities as possible, but when the game fails to hook you, everything becomes completely unbearable. There are countless systems in the game, such as the need to collect peons from moe killing enemies to power the ship that transports Chou-Chou and co. from planet to planet, but they’re largely inconsequential and seem to serve only to give the game some sense of depth to justify its absurd content.
The game is relatively short for an RPG, but there is also the Mugen Field for those who want to do extra grinding, which will likely be necessarily considering the late-game spike in difficulty. There are even Disgaea levels of massive damage to be had, but few will be enamored enough with the game to be willing to put the time in to get to the coveted 1,000,000 damage mark. It’s a shame, too, as Mugen Souls sports some nice visuals for the anime fan, even if they do cause some stuttering, and the overall package would be relatively appealing if it weren’t for the endless battles and gag-worthy scenarios.
Mugen Souls is the kind of game that knows what it wants to achieve. It’s acutely aware of audience, and it knows what they want. Luckily, they know what they want, too, so that select few probably already knew before reading this review that Mugen Souls would provide them with hours of entertainment. For the other 99%, the few promising elements of Mugen Souls are quickly overshadowed by irritating design choices and the game’s sense of humor, or lack thereof. Those purely looking for an engrossing RPG experience should steer clear, but anyone with a penchant for stereotypical anime girls in skimpy clothes who always seem to find themselves in compromising positions may be able to overlook the game’s tedious systems.
- Release Date: October 16, 2012 (NA), September 28, 2012 (EU)
- Genre: RPG
- Platform: PlayStation 3
- Developers: Compile Heart
- Publisher: NIS America
- ESRB Rating: T
- MSRP: $49.99
Our Score: 2/5
Review Statement: A copy of the game was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review.